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Glover must relent, not hold out until last dog hung

Like fleas on a mutt, the dog park issue for Shreveport just won’t go away. (From now on, this author promises instead of inflicting a groaner every time this issue gets discussed, he’ll simply write, “Insert clever phrase about politics and dogs here.”) Throughout, the tide of political ramifications continues to turn against Mayor Cedric Glover.

Many moons ago (whether barked at; sorry, last time as well for deliberate use of phrases associated with dogs), proponents of using $280,000 given by the Red River Waterway Commission to build a dog park on the Shreveport river front brought in courts to intervene successfully in the matter. The RRWC has the authority to fund projects of this nature with its separate taxpayer dollars as long as they enhance the environment proximate to the river. The problem was they didn’t have the land to do it, and therefore would have to have the city agree upon putting it on city land, in particular in Hamel Park.

The City Council was quite receptive to the idea, but not Glover. In a thinly-disguised power play in order to extract money from the RRWC to pay for projects Glover valued, and had asked it to fund, but that the city could not afford as it tries to survive a strained budget that has been the hallmark of Glover’s administration, he said he wouldn’t sign unless they added the others. The RRWC stuck to its guns in stating it would fund only this project a long-standing request for many years to them by citizens who organized themselves as the Shreveport Dog Park Alliance, and only river front items.

At that point, after the Council had passed an ordinance forcing Glover to accept the money and build the park, even overriding his veto, Glover simply refused, contrary to the city’s charter. That view was verified in May when Caddo District Judge Leon Emmanuel ruled in favor of the Alliance’s request that Glover must sign off on it, and gave him until Jun. 21 to do so. That got extended until today.

This put Glover in an untenable position. Not only had his scheme to find “free” money to do what he wanted failed, he had made matters worse by spending taxpayer money to defend against the suit in addition to be forced to do what he had opposed, which would humiliate him politically. So he came up with the idea of trying to save face by delegitimizing the Hamel Park request in order to avoid building a dog park there specifically with that money.

He pitched to some of the Council the day before the order was up that the park should be built at Princess Park instead, eschewing the RRWC money entirely but in what he claimed would be a far cheaper alternative, claiming it could be done for $96,000 while alleging almost ten times that amount would have to be spent to bring Hamel Park up to speed to support a dog park. The tactic is to get the Council to repeal the ordinance with this enticement, since as long as it remains on the books he must follow the court’s order, which no doubt the Alliance would be glad to hold his feet to the fire.

Whether his cost assertions actually bear resemblance to reality is another matter. It seems incredible that to support a smattering of dog owners and their pooches at any given time would cost so much in adding to the very underutilized park. The same infrastructure that accommodates picnickers and Frisbee golf players appears entirely adequate, and even if additional funds seemed necessary, the Alliance has had an ongoing fundraising campaign for years that could pick that up. And why is it that the park would cost so much less at Princess rather than Hamel when they are equivalent in terms of current development of dog park infrastructure, i.e. close to zilch? Does that not mean that a park could be built more cheaply than advertised at Hamel, and leftover dollars also go to any infrastructural changes?

As the Council decides how to proceed on the matter, it needs to keep these questions in mind. Although it seems unlikely, if a park seems more optimal at a different location, councilors should resist counting coup on Glover and make the switch, thanking the RRWC but returning the funds. For Glover’s part, if that’s not the case, he needs to swallow his bitter medicine and not let his ego cost Shreveport more money over a battle he can’t win. He should have let sleeping … no, not going there.

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